Walmart has teamed up with automaker Ford and autonomous start-up Argo AI (backed by Ford) to pilot deliveries by autonomous vehicle in several key U.S. markets.
The retail giant, also the largest grocer in the U.S., will offer delivery by driverless vehicle in Washington, D.C.; Miami; and Austin, Texas, using Ford Escape hybrid vehicles outfitted with Argo AI autonomous driving technology. It’s expected to deploy small fleets of the vehicles in each city and plans to grow those services over time.
Testing is expected to begin later this year.
Retail giant Walmart entered the autonomous vehicle sphere with an investment in Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous, all-electric vehicle development arm, this week. The funding round, which included other investors, totaled $2.75 billion and raises Cruise’s value to more than $30 billion.
Walmart invested about five months after entering a pilot program to use AVs for deliveries around Scottsdale, Ariz., and company officials say they’d be open to investing in other AV development as well–even outside of Cruise. “Over the years we’ve been doing a lot to learn more about the role autonomous vehicles can play in retail, and we’ve seen enough to know it’s no longer a question of if they’ll be scaled, but when,” wrote company President and CEO John Furner in a blog post yesterday.
“This investment is a marker for us–it shows our commitment to bringing the benefit of self-driving cars to our customers and business,” he wrote.
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It was a not-very-well kept secret among RV owners for a very long time: If they couldn’t find or couldn’t afford a campground while visiting a city, they could almost always camp in a Walmart parking lot overnight. But a lot of Walmarts are banning overnight RV parking–sometimes because of city ordinances–even as RVs skyrocket in popularity.
CNN Business reports that only 58 percent of Walmarts allow overnight RV parking now, down from 78 percent 10 years ago. That’s for a number of reasons, including municipal ordinances that ban camping in commercial parking lots, campers abusing Walmart’s traditional 24-hour rule and staying for long periods of time, an uptick in homeless people living in campers, and campers who don’t dispose of trash or grey water properly.
Users say parking at a Walmart overnight used to be a treat, both because they could easily stock up on necessities and because the experience was quieter than a lot of campgrounds. They expect an uptick in campers using casino lots, which are increasingly opening up to overnight RV stays, and private driveways, which are being rented out to RVers online.
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